Unravelling mechanisms of short-term vegetation dynamics in complex coppice forest systems.
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SubjectSpecies turnover; Alpha and beta diversity; Forest management; Clonal traits; Understorey vegetation; Temporal nestedness; Plant functional traits
The silvicultural management of coppicing has been very common in deciduous forests in many European countries. After decades of decline of this practice, socio-economic changes might induce a revival valuing the biomass as a resource. New insights in the ecological processes that regulate plant diversity are relevant for a sustainable forest management. While studies on long-term changes are available, the short-term dynamics of the coppice forest understorey has not yet been explored. In this context, it is interesting to evaluate the species compositional changes, including the processes of species turnover and species impoverishment (nestedness) and to investigate the role of plant functional traits. For this purpose, we resampled a chronosequence of complex coppice beech forests of the Central Apennines (Italy) monitoring the short-time species dynamics of five years (i.e. from 2006 to 2011) in three age classes, i.e. post-logged, recovering and old coppice stands (0–16, 17–31 and over 32 years, respectively). In contrast to our expectation, declining species richness appeared only in the recovering stands, while the landscape scale (between-stand) heterogeneity, except for post-logged and recovering stands in 2011, did not change over five years. Significant temporal nestedness was found in each stage of succession. However, the rate of species turnover and species impoverishment do not significantly differ among the three age classes, indicating their constant importance along the forest regeneration after disturbance. Only in the early stage of forest regeneration after coppicing, species compositional changes are reflected by functional changes with surviving understorey species having clonal regeneration traits. Our results suggest an overall landscape-scale stability (and sustainability) of this coppice forest system. We conclude with management indications, highlighting the importance of maintaining the traditional local approach (coppicing with standards in small 0.5–1.0 ha sized management units with a ca 30-year rotation cycle) where active coppice parcels are interspersed by abandoned stands. © 2017 Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
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